If the spiritual journey does not depend upon formal religion, then what if any value does it serve if you belong to a religion?
Clearly religion has been invoked in many ways to do evil. Whether torturing those who question or simply passing judgment on those who believe differently, we have tended to use religion to develop an “us vs. them” mentality. It doesn’t help when we think that we are right and they are not.
I am most familiar with Christianity and Catholicism in particular and agree with Wendell Berry when he observes this about Christianity being fashionable, especially in political circles. That fashionable brand of Christianity, according to Berry, “…seems to have remarkably little to do with things that Jesus Christ actually taught.” (Blessed are the Peacemakers, p. 3)
Yet all religions can be viewed as people’s efforts to find connection to the God of their understanding. To ignore the experiences of travelers who’ve gone ahead of us is perhaps to be arrogant. I may not agree with such travelers as St. Paul or John of the Cross or Ghandi but I would do well to keep an open mind to how they might enrich my journey. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “We mus use any signpost that exists to help us through the wilderness.” (Gift from the Sea, p.96)
We do well then to journey with an open mind to the experiences of others. For some of us, this journeying may feel more productive if we include a religion as part of it. For others of us, however, we need to leave formal religion behind.
Reflections: 1. What have been my experiences with formal religion? Have they helped or hindered my spiritual journey?
Thich Nhat Hanh Living Buddha, Living Christ